Warriors lose out on back-to-back championships at the 53rd Annual Naismith Classic Basketball Tournament


The 53rd Annual Naismith Classic — an annual single round-robin tournament named after James Naismith, the founder of modern basketball, gave the Warriors Men’s and Women’s basketball teams a chance to face competition from across the country. The first game for the University of Waterloo was the Women’s basketball team, sporting the black and gold colours through warm-up and wearing their golden jerseys for their match-up against the University of Northern British Columbia, the UNBC Timberwolves. 

The Waterloo Warriors had a 1-2 finish in last year’s Naismith Classic. In the lead-up to this year’s Naismith, the Warriors Men’s team was struggling coming into the tournament, whereas the Women’s team had found success. Playing a tournament on the Carl Totzke Court at PAC would be a home-court advantage for UW, and right off the bat, the Warriors Women’s team took advantage. Although the Warriors lost possession in the jump ball, the first quarter finished with a seven-point difference of 18-11 in the favor of the Warriors. The team’s initial points came from their guards, Kaitlyn Overeem, Vanessa Hughes and Ghiselle Poblete. Overeem proved her capabilities as the handler and dribbler within the opening minutes of the game. Hughes and Poblete also put four points on the board in the first quarter, while opening forwards Summer Pahl and Maddy Adams helped retain possession with crucial rebounds.

Moving into the second quarter, Beth Howlett led the team’s point-scoring effort, scoring field goals and three-pointers alike, supported by Jaime Newell, who drew fouls and went to the free-throw line four times in the second quarter. The Warriors had ended the first half with a nine-point lead over the Timberwolves. Coming into the second half, the Warriors lacked the defence they had in the first half, being outscored by their opponents for the first time. Alina Sharikova of the Timberwolves led the 21-point effort in the third quarter, scoring 12 against the black and gold. Her efforts on the other end of the court also impacted the third quarter, taking two defensive rebounds.

The fourth quarter started with a five-point difference. Both teams were evenly matched, but Hughes charged the Warriors into both offensive and defensive actions, scoring 10 of the team’s 21 points in the final quarter while also stealing the ball four times in the quarter. The Timberwolves’ efforts did not amount to a win; the game closed with the Warriors winning by a four-point margin. Hughes scored 18 points and amassed nine steals, adding to her offensive and defensive credentials, and Pahl scored her double-double; she had two statistics in the double digits, with 12 rebounds and 12 points in the game.

The second game for the Women’s team started off slowly. Although the Warriors started ahead, it was a five-point game after the first quarter, with 15-10, the scoreboard favouring the home team. The Warriors did not have Overeem, and the handler for the opening lineup was Hughes. However, it was Areej Burgiono for the Concordia Stingers that was the player that impressed the crowd. Burgiono’s handling skills were better than those supporting her plays, and it did look as if the Stingers were not a team that could assist her playmaking. From the first quarter itself, it was telling of the teams’ abilities — the Warriors had a stronger overall team, allowing for passes, assists, rebounds, and even substitutions, whereas the Stingers had three players on the bench, limiting their combinations.

The Warriors seemed to be largely on top of the game, with major credits to Adams. Her overall stats saw her take seven rebounds and 19 points — the most of any player for the game. Although the Stingers’ Burgiono was able to score 17 points herself, she did not have support the way Adams did. The Warriors also had Pahl and Howlett score 14 and 15 points, respectively. Although the official record sheet did not acknowledge blocks from any players, the defensive capabilities of the Warriors were on show. Warrior forwards Adams and Pahl took eight defensive rebounds between both of them, which enabled better playmaking. By the second half’s arrival, the Warriors found themselves in a nine-point lead, which stayed constant until the end of the third quarter. The third quarter was the only period of the game in which the Warriors did not outscore the Stingers — both teams scored 13 apiece, and the Stingers did not get the better of the Warriors at any given point.

Concordia Stingers had amassed fouls much quicker than the Warriors, but the Warriors took advantage of saving their timeouts and having fewer personal fouls in the final quarter of the game. The Warriors did make it tougher for the Stingers to reach the ball, outscoring Concordia by five points in the final quarter. The game drew to a close with the score reading 64-50, and the Warriors took their second victory. The team’s top scorers were Adams, Howlett, and Pahl. Hughes presented her defensive capabilities again, getting four steals for the Warriors, coupled with her six assists and eight points, proving her offensive talents. For the Concordia Stingers, Burgiono’s efforts of 17 points and six assists for her team were impressive, she alone contributed to nearly half the points scored by Concordia.

On the final day of the Naismith, the Men’s Warriors team faced the UQAM’s Citadins. The Warrior Men’s team had lost their first two games, with a six-point deficit to the Dalhousie Tigers and a 16-point deficit to Cape Brenton’s Capers. The first quarter was telling of the teams’ abilities. UQAM had a plethora of players get onto the scoreboard, with seven players contributing to the 22-point first quarter, whereas only four players from the Warriors scored, primarily supported by guard Raf Llorin, who shot nine points and made both his three-pointers in the first quarter. The Warriors struggled with rebounds, only taking four of the ten rebounds in the first quarter. UQAM was careless on defense, which the Warriors took advantage of, getting five free throws.

However, it was the second quarter that sealed the game. Eight Citadins scored 29 points combined, which nearly doubled the 15 points scored by four Warriors in the second quarter of the game. The Citadins took advantage of their pace with quicker turnovers, short passing, and a good three-point shooting average with guard Kevin Civil, who scored 10 points in the second quarter. The Warriors attempted more field goals, 19 compared to the Citadens’ 17 in the second quarter, but only scored five of those attempts compared to nine by the Citadins. 

Coming into the second half, the Warriors seemed drained of their energy. Having lost the previous two games and being down 19 points at half-time was not helping morale, but forward Kanayo Nnadi managed to score nine points in the third quarter. The Warriors had a 10-point deficit in the third quarter alone, which can be attributed to the lack of scoring players. Only three players scored for the Warriors, compared to six for the Citadins; the Warriors weren’t able to make the plays that the Citadins were; the Warriors only had two assists compared to six by the Citadins in the third quarter.

The final quarter was the third time that the Warriors Men’s team outscored their opponents in a quarter for the entire tournament. The third quarter against Dalhousie and the third Quarter against Cape Brenton were the only times the Warriors Men’s team had the upper hand against their opponents. However, this was a nine-point margin that the Warriors recovered in the final quarter against the Citadins. Forward Nnadi scored 11 points in the final moments of the game. Seven Warriors contributed to the 32-point quarter, the highest-scoring quarter of the weekend for the Warriors. The game ended on a 20-point difference, the UQAM’s Citadins winning 98-78 against the Warriors.

At the end of the tournament, Laurier’s Golden Hawks were crowned champions in the Men’s category, while the Guelph Gryphons took the championship in the Women’s category. The Warriors Men’s team lost all three games they played, a streak they will be looking to break against Concordia this Friday. The Warriors Women’s team won their first two games of the tournament, losing 58-77 to the new champions, the Guelph Gryphons. The Waterloo Warriors will play the Tindall Tournament in Kingston this weekend, the Men’s team playing Concordia, Queen’s and UNB, and the Women’s team playing Bishop’s, Alberta and Queen’s.